Category: Locations (page 1 of 8)

Specific geographical points of interest

The Crittenden Compromise Fails in Senate 16 January 1861

Background

John Jordan Crittenden, one of Kentucky’s most prolific politicians, attempted to broker a compromise to save the Union in the U.S. Senate and avoid civil war. The Crittenden Compromise failed on 16 January 1861 and virtually guaranteed civil war. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 allowed the southern states and new states south of the 36’30” latitude to continue slavery, whilst the northern states and new states north of that line couldn’t. The Compromise of 1850 changed this and allowed the new territories’ residents to vote on the issue regardless if south of the 36’30”.

The Crittenden Compromise

Crittenden tried to mitigate the Compromise of 1850 in favor of the South. However, the Crittenden Compromise was a step too far in reverse for the Republican party which had formed specifically to oppose the expansion of slavery.
Crittenden was especially torn over the issue, as he had one son (Thomas L. Crittenden) and a nephew (Thomas Turpin Crittenden) who fought for the North and one son who fought for the South (George B. Crittenden). In the end, the gulf was just too wide for even a despairing father to stop. J.J. Crittenden died in the middle of the Civil War.

The Crittenden Compromise Motorcycle Ride

If you find yourself traversing western Kentucky on I-24, get off near Eddyville, KY and try the backroads through Crittenden County, Kentucky, named after J.J. Crittenden. It also gives me a good reason to recommend another ferry, and you know the Battlefield Biker likes to put the Red Rover on a ferry. Try the free (well, the KY taxpayer is paying) Cave-in-Rock ferry over the Ohio. This is the Battlefield Biker’s ancestral homeland and they are the back roads that Battlefield Biker learned to ride on as a young boy. Enjoy a little slice of rural Kentucky. From Eddyvile, you are not too far from Fort Donelson either, if you are looking for another local ride.

Photo Credit: Mathew Brady [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Battle of Logan’s Crossroads – 19 January 1862

Background

After the defeat at the Battle of Middle Creek / Big Sandy on 10 January 1862, the Confederates were definitely on the defensive in eastern / central Kentucky. Kentucky was a key area for the Union to establish dominance, both politically and logistically. The long hoped for push into Tennessee by Ulysses S. Grant would be happening in February 1862, so the importance of clearing Kentucky of any serious Confederate forces was paramount to the Union. Not only would Tennessee be open to attack, but the Union would have direct access to the Cumberland Gap through eastern Kentucky and Tennessee to western Virginia. For the south, this area was also critical for supplies for the Confederacy with such staples as salt and mineral mines for ammunition.

Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer was sent to defend the Cumberland Gap and in the winter of 1861/62, he decided to occupy the area south of present day Nancy, Kentucky for winter quarters. Zollicoffer built defenses along both sides of the Cumberland River. Union General George Thomas wanted to break the remainder of the eastern Kentucky forces under General George Crittenden, Zolicoffer’s senior. When Crittenden determined that Thomas was to attack the area, he took personal command of the position.

As Thomas moved into the area in heavy rain, Zollicoffer and Crittenden thought they might be able to split Thomas’s forces by catching them off guard with the swollen Fishing Creek separating Union camps. Zollicoffer took his troops out of their defensive positions in the middle of the night for a forced march through appalling conditions to attack. The forces met at the Battle of Logan’s Crossroads, also known as the Battle of Fishing Creek (not to be confused of the North Carolina Revolutionary War battle of the same name), near Nancy, KY.

The Battle of Logan’s Crossroads

The Confederates achieved some level of surprise in the attack, but Union pickets and a cavalry patrol provided enough alert for Thomas to get his men moving. Crittenden had some early success, but three factors meant the battle was soon to sway in the Union’s favor. First, at least a regiment of Rebels had old flintlock rifles that would not fire in the deluge, so at least 1/8th of the force had to be sent to the rear. Second, Fishing Creek, although swollen, was not impassable, so Thomas was able to bring full force to bear. Finally, the Yankees had a further forces advancing to join the fray.

As if all of this was not enough, Zollicoffer got lost whilst working the lines and met up with Union Colonel Speed Fry. It is not clear as to whether both confused each other intially as friend or foe, but Fry was on the uptick quicker and recognized Zollicoffer for who he was and shot him in the chest. The loss of Zollicoffer threw panic into the closest Rebel brigade which took flight. Their panic sparked the other brigade and soon the Union rout was on. Crittenden got his troops across the Cumberland in a ragged retreat, but was to later be reprimanded on charges of drunkenness at the battle with aspersions being cast about his commitment to the southern cause. His daddy would not have been proud.

The Union was successful in pushing the line across eastern and south-central Kentucky much further south to near the Tennessee line. The stage was now set for attacking down the western ends of the Tennessee River and Cumberland River in western Kentucky and Tennessee at Forts Henry and Donelson in February 1862.

The Battle of Logan’s Crossroad Motorcycle Ride

Check out the Cumberland Cultural Heritage Highway for beautiful ride around the area of the battle.

British and Kentucky Riflemen Battle of Frenchtown 22 Jan 1813

Since its shameful fall in August 1812 with scarcely a shot fired in defense, the Americans wanted Detroit back. So embarrassed by it, a winter campaign was conceived to win it back. William Henry Harrison, the hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe, was selected to take back the area and further the American goals in the War of 1812. Harrison’s second in command was General James Winchester. The two split their forces to move on Detroit.

On 18 January 1813, Winchester’s lead elements entered Frenchtown (near modern day Monroe, Michigan) and took it in a short battle with a handful of British Regulars and a couple of hundred of local Indians. The American soldiers were militia that had recently been recruited in Kentucky and marched north with severe privation. The Kentuckians found great stores of food and gorged themselves for several days. Unfortunately, their officers had not ordered them to fortify the area for a counter-attack.

Battle of Frenchtown

A mixed force of British, under Colonel Henry Procter, and Shawnee, under Chief Tecumseh, counter-attacked on 22 January 1813. There followed a fierce battle that would go down as one of the biggest ground battles in the War of 1812. The British and Indians attacked across the American front. The American right flank was enveloped and surrendered, including Winchester. The left flank, however was holding well along a fence in the west of the area. The Kentuckians there were not surprised to see a British truce party arrive, but they were surprised to hear that it was the Kentuckian’s surrender they were after. Winchester had sent word that they should give up. The Kentuckians did surrender, but only with the assurance that the captured would be protected from the Indians.

The British then quickly unoccupied the area of operations for they feared that Harrison’s column would soon descend on Frenchtown. They left the prisoners with Tecumseh’s force. Some, but not all, of the Kentucky prisoners left with the Indians were massacred. The remainder were taken to Detroit for ransom. The Raisin River Massacre became a rallying point for remainder of the war in the old northwest. The event had a solidifying effect on the frontiersman for the war that was not there previously. Future Kentucky units rushed north yelling, “Remember the Raisin!” The area was re-captured by Kentucky cavalry units in September 1813.

Trivia; Although born in Ohio, George Armstrong Custer lived in Monroe as a boy and married a local girl. No doubt, young Custer would have heard the story of the massacre in his local school.

Battle of Frenchtown Motorcycle Ride

Check out the Raisin River Battlefield National Park. Then go from the Raisin River Battlefield Visitor’s Center and follow the Raisin River out to Raisinville, Dundee and back to Monroe to the Sterling State Park.

Marias River Massacre 23 January 1870

Background

At the confluence of the Two Medicine and Cut Bank Rivers is where the Marias River begins and flows east for approximately 60 miles to Lake Elwell, then on for another 80 miles where it meets the Missouri River near Loma, Montana. Somewhere along this stretch of river (possibly here), there lies an ancient American Indian site where Major Eugene Baker of the U.S. Army took his mixed detachment from the 2nd US Cavalry and the 13th Infantry to surround an encampment of Piegan Indians on 22 January 1870. What happened next is clear, but why is not so clear.

A Tragic, Familiar Story

The area had seen an altercation between two hotheads, one white, Malcolm Clarke, and one Indian, Owl Child. Clarke beat Owl Child, who he claimed had stolen his horses. Owl Child retaliated by killing Clarke. As so happened in those days, this caused cries for the army to make sure another white was not killed by another Indian, so Major Baker was sent to teach the Indians a lesson. Baker’s detachment left Fort Shaw on 15 January 1870 and rode north to find a group of Indians known as the Piegans. Baker found an encampment at a big bend on the Marias River and surrounded it in the winter’s night of 22/23 January 1870. There is some debate as to whether Baker knew it was the camp he was looking for or another one.

The Marias River Massacre

On the morning of the incident, also known as the Baker Massacre and the Piegan Massacre, Chief Heavy Runner tried to stop the attack by showing papers that he claimed gave him and his people clear passage in the area. Regardless, Baker issued the order to fire on the camp and many women, children and elderly were killed, the camp was burned and the survivors set afoot in the Montana winter without provisions.

Some said Baker knew that it as the wrong encampment. Some said he didn’t care. Some said he was a drunken commander and didn’t know what was happening. None of the PR options were good and the Army made it worse by ignoring, at the least, but probably covering up the massacre. As so often happened in these cases in the U.S. Army, a young soldier steps up where his superiors have fallen down and tells the truth. Lieutenant William Pease, acting as a Blackfoot agent, reported the massacre to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Ely Samuel Parker. Parker, a Civil War veteran, confidante to U.S. Grant and an Iroquois Indian whose Indian name was Donehogawa, demanded a investigation, but the outcome was prevarication as the U.S. Army closed ranks with General William Tecumseh Sherman saying he would prefer to believe his soldiers.

In the end, no official recognition of the Marias River Massacre was forthcoming and only time has brought a gradual acceptance of the fact of this massacre. Author Dee Brown, in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, puts the casualties at 33 men, 90 women and 50 children. Stan Gibson has investigated the topic deeply. He and Jack Hayne are working on a book on the topic.

If you are teaching this topic to 7-12th grade students, there is a good looking lesson plan that uses the Montana: Stories of the Land textbook by Holmes, Krys, Susan C. Dailey, and David Walter. Helena, Mont: Montana Historical Society Press, 2008. You can find the relevant chapter 7 online.

Marias River Massacre Motorcycle Ride

This is a long ride starting and ending at Browning, Montana at the Museum of the Plains Indians. The ride passes through the origin of the Marias River and also runs about 5 miles north and parallel to the Marias for a good while on the beautiful U.S. Highway 2. This is a good description of the things to see along this route, including a Cold War missile Silo. As always, good Battlefield Biking requires the courtesy to ask for permission to travel on private roads. Be polite and ensure the rest of us can enjoy the ride too.

Battle of Nantwich 25 January 1644

Background – English Civil War

With the arrival of Irish forces (somewhat) loyal to the King in late 1643, the Royalists had developed a strong footing in the northwest of England and were besieging the strategically important town of Nantwich. The Royalist commander Lord Byron decided to complete his conquest of Cheshire by quickly capturing Nantwich, which was being defended by Parliamentarian Sir William Brereton. However, the Parliamentarian Sir Thomas Fairfax had other plans. Showing his grasp of the whole war and not just that of his eastern England locality, Fairfax pulled together his disparate forces around Lincolnshire and marched to the relief of Nantwich. The two forces met near the present day Shropshire Union Canal on the close, flat pastures to the west of Nantwich.

Battle of Nantwich

Having deployed tightly coming out of Nantwich, Fairfax had to fight on each flank to open up space for his cavalry. On the other hand, Byron, converging on Nantwich, had to deal with over-extension. One has to imagine an inner concentric arc pushing against an outer concentric arc to understand the tension between the two forces. Fairfax was able to hold both flanks as his centre made the advance into Byron*s centre who were unsupported by their flanks due to the over-extension. Eventually, the Royalist centre cleaved in two and flanked away in opposing directions. This saved the left side, but doomed the right which fell back near Acton church.

Things went from bad to worse for Byron, as the blocking force meant to hold the Nantwich Roundhead forces at bay, failed. These Parliamentary forces proceeded to attack the Royalist baggage train near Acton church and the Royalist right flank near the present day Acton Bridge (footbridge) over the canal. In the melee, the Royalist lost many, but many more surrendered, including whole Irish regiments who felt they had been tricked into coming to England to fight for the King.

Nantwich was a clear win for the Parliamentary forces, having relieved the siege, captured the Royalist baggage train and not a few senior officers. Strategically, it kept the centre of England in play and established Fairfax as a Parliamentarian commander of national stature.

Battle of Nantwich Motorcycle Ride

Try this circular ride from Nantwich to Whitchurch and back

The Tuscarora War and the Battle of Narhantes Fort 30 Jan 1712

On January 30 1712, a force under South Carolinian Colonel John Barnwell, attacked the Tuscorora Indian village cum fort of Narhantes (also known as Torhunta), near New Bern, North Carolina. Barnwell had been sent by the South Carolina authorities in response to a call for help from North Carolinian settlers after they had been attacked by the southern part of the Tuscarora Indians, under the leadership of Chief Hancock.

Background to the Tuscarora War

The Tuscarora War is one of the saddest of the Indian wars, both because there were truly good relations between Indians and whites for a long time before the fighting started and because it was one the first such problems in the southern colonies. The Tuscarora, along with smaller tribes of Coree, Matchapunga, Pamlico, Bear River and Neusioc had lived and hunted in the area since before the settlers arrived. Some of the smaller tribes had even moved inland already due to the earlier expansion of the European settlers. The settlers, mainly English, Swiss, and German, had been spreading out from their Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds landing areas for fifty years. They were becoming more prosperous, but also more greedy for land. Their sprawl was tolerated at first, but eventually it began to encroach on Tuscarora hunting grounds along the Neuse, Pamlico, Trent and Roanoke Rivers. What was to become the all too familiar complaints in later Indian wars caused the Tuscarora to attack. They felt that they had been taken by duplicitous European traders, had their people enslaved by the same, and were increasingly being encroached upon by the European settlers. The northern part of the Tuscarora tribe, led by Chief Tom Blunt, had felt better treated, so had sided, albeit incompletely, with the settlers. The southern tribes, led by Chief Hancock had decided that force was the only way to regain their way of life.

On 22 September 1711, the southern Tuscarora struck the European settlers ferociously in multiple places in between the Neuses and Pamlico Rivers. The settlers were divided already due to a armed dispute between rival leaders of the settlers. They had not prepared defenses and took heavy losses. The Tuscarora killed, tortured, burned, and pillaged their way through the area. The settlers had no forts, but began to gather in some of the bigger plantations homes to fight off the Tuscarora. The North Carolina settler Deputy Governor, Edward Hyde, sent out pleas for help to Virginia and South Carolina. Colonel Barnwell, with a force of a few whites and several hundred Indians (mainly Yamasee, but also Cape Fear, Catawba, Muskhogean, Saraw, Wateree and Wynyaw) was South Carolina’s answer.

The Battle of Narhantes Fort – 30 January 1712

Barnwell made his way north from South Carolina and arrived in the Neuses River area in late January 1712. Barnwell did not find the promised North Carolina help, but decided to attack the nearby Narhantes  (Torhunta) anyway. He struck to find the village largely open, but with several small, non-supporting fortifications. There was some fierce opposition including from the women of the village, but Barnwell had taken the village within a few hours. Those not killed were taken prisoner. Barnwell had recruited plenty of his Indian allies with the promise of scalps and plunder, so it was unsurprising to see some of those captured were taken by Barnwell’s Indians and they had quietly slipped away with their booty. Barnwell stayed in the area for several days, eventually destroying Narhantes Fort totally.

Barnwell would spend the remainder of the winter stomping through other Tuscaroran villages as he worked the area. However, Barnwell met his match in ferociousness with Chief Hancock, who eventually convinced Barnwell to treat by threatening to kill all of the previously captured settlers, if Barnwell continued his attacks. In the Spring, a comprehensive, but short-lived peace was agreed, but as with so many of these, the terms were not to the long term liking of either party, so they collapsed. This was not the first, nor the last of these battles or treaties, but it was defintely the most savage in this area and it was to poison relations thereafter.

The Tuscaroras moved north a few year later to join their Iroquoian cousins in the New York area. Ironically, but not unpredictably, the Yamasee got the same treatment soon thereafter and had to move south into Florida to avoid being wiped out.

Battle of Narhantes Fort Motorcycle Ride

Try this run from Windsor through eastern North Carolina’s multiple National Wildlife Refuges (Roanoke, East Dismal Swamp, Pocosin Lakes, Alligator River, Mattamuskeet and Swanquarter) to Roanoke Island and down to New Bern and up to the historical marker about Narhantes / Torhunta to get a good feel for this area that was developing quickly in the early 1700s. The area is great for wildlife, but be careful on a bike, I’ve had various critters run out in front of me on these roads, including a black bear.

Anzio Beachhead Breakout Attempt 30 January 1944

After a nearly unopposed beach invasion at Anzio and an impressive beachhead built up over a week, the Allied forces began their Anzio Beachhead Breakout Attempt on 30 January 1944.

Background

The decision to heavily fortify the intial beachhead, rather than advance on the Alban Hills, was the source of great rancor between British and Americans. The British Chiefs of Staff who planned the attack and General Henry Wilson who gave the orders for Anzio thought they had made it clear that it was their intent to get to the Alban hills ASAP. The Alban Hills commanded the road to Rome and would be the meeting place with the rest of the main assault coming up from the Cassino area further south. The British also felt an immediate push agains the Alban Hills would also relieve some of the pressure on the Rapido River crossing. General John Lucas (US VI Corps commander), who would command the Anzio campaign, and his commander General Mark Clark (US Fifth Army Commander), who would lead the US push from Cassino, thought the orders only meant a link up point and the timing would be determined later. Lucas and Clark also thought German counter-attacks would make getting to tha Alban Hills almost impossible immediately. Their idea was to fortify the beachhead to the point of impregnability, then move out. This is what they did. However, the Germans were not lax. They spent the week building up a force of 70,000 to oppose the breakout.

Anzio Beachhead Breakout Attempt

In the early morning of 30 January 1944, the Rangers under the command Colonel William O. Darby, began the assault by getting within a kilometer of their objective of Cisterna. That would be as close as they got that day. They were found out by the Germans and ambushed which drove them to ground. By mid-morning, they were being attacked by tanks of the Herman Goring Division and attempted a fighting retreat. By noon, only 6 out of 767 Rangers in the attack made it back to friendly lines. The US 3rd Division continued the attack, but still were a mile away from Cisterna by end of 31 January.

The other prong of the breakout was to capture the town of Campleone near the Alban Hills. Here the British 1st Division and a regiment from the US 1st Armored Division pushed forward with great difficulty. They spent a lot of time just reaching the start line, because of mines and obstacles. Over two days, they got tantalizingly close, but once again the Allied push was stopped short of the town objective. The Allied high command was surprised by the lack of progress and this led them to think the German were preparing a major counter-attack soon. The Allies rushed to re-enforce the Anzio beachhead.

Whether Clark and Lucas were correct about the initial speed of the push out of Anzio or not is immaterial, but the fact remains that the Germans did not counter-attack quickly or decisively and this made the decision to stay near the beachhead potentially catastrophic. It is also conceivable that the lack of an immediate move out of the beachhead contributed to the fiasco at the Battle of the Bloody Rapido River.

Anzio Beachhead Breakout Attempt Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

Check out this ride from Nettuno to Cisterna to the Alban Hills and back down to Anzio going through Aprilia.

Battle of Cowan’s Ford, North Carolina 1 February 1781

After Daniel Morgan’s devastating victory over the British commander Banastre Tarleton at the Battle of Cowpens on 17 January 1781, the American commander of the southern theatre, Nathaniel Greene, was leading a confident force. However, they were still far outnumbered by British Lord Cornwallis’ forces. Greene needed to recruit more before he turned to face the British. To this end, Greene ordered William Lee Davidson to take a small force and provide rear cover to Greene’s evasion.

Background to the Battle of Cowan’s Ford

Davidson was a member of a family that had immigrated from Ulster to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania before the Revolution. They had moved to North Carolina shortly after William’s birth. Davidson became a respected member of the colonial establishment in the area. He served as an envoy to the Cherokee to set boundaries and later served as a constable. By the time of the Revolution, Davidson was a prominent patriot leader in the area of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina and knew the area well. He was responsible for a highly successful recruitment effort. The Mecklenburg County area had become known to Cornwallis as a “hornet’s nest” of Revolutionary activity. The victory at the Battle of Cowpens had re-energized the recruitment. He was to become one of the founding members of Jim Webb’s Born Fighting breed of Scots-Irish American fighting men.

The Battle of Cowan’s Ford

On 31 January 1781, Davidson had sent pickets out to the east of the fording areas of the Catawba River that he felt were likely to be used by Cornwallis in his pursuit of Greene’s army. There were two suspected, Beatties Ford to the north (now part of Lake Norman formed by Cowan’s Ford dam) and Cowan’s Ford to the south (now the point of the dam on the Catawba River). Therefore, Davidson had to spread himself thin with his cavalry and infantry contingents. Cornwallis had sent a show force to Beatties Ford to make a racket in an attempt to fool the patriots into thinking he was crossing there. However, Cowan’s Ford was always the more likely with high water from recent rains, because Cowan’s had both a deep, but straight wagon crossing and a shallower, but oblique horse crossing. Davidson had situated himself near, but to the rear of Cowan’s Ford, wanting to ward off a suspected attempt by Tarleton to flank him.

In the early morning of the 1st of Febuary 1781, the pickets near Cowan’s Ford fired to alert Davidson. Davidson’s force began firing on the British near daybreak as they crossed the rain swollen river at the deeper wagon crossing point. Many British horses were going under and the Americans were able to take quite a toll on the British as they floundered in the Catawba. Davidson moved to the sound of the guns and arrived at the river’s edge not long after the skirmishing began. Unfortunately, Davidson was almost immediately hit in the chest. The loss of Davidson made the patriots in the immediate area retreat and soon the retreat was general. The patriots hadn’t lost many in number, but in Davidson, they had lost their charismatic leader.
Cornwallis completed the crossing and was not slowed much, but the British morale must have slumped even further with the significant casualties. These rebels were proving hard to root out. Davidson’s death was taken hard by the local community. Davidson College would later be named after him when his son provided ground for the college.

Battle of Cowan’s Ford Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

Check out the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission’s tour of the area. Here is my imperfect attempt to recreate their route using Google Maps.

Ulysses S. Grant Begins Western Campaign 2 February 1862

Map by Hal Jespersen, www.cwmaps.com [CC BY 3.0 or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

On 2 February 1862, the Commander of the Union’s Army of the Tennessee, U.S. Grant, began the action that would lead to his being recognized by President Abraham Lincoln as a General with a bias for action. Grant launched his forces from Cairo, Illinois, through far western Kentucky towards Forts Heiman, Henry (on the Tennessee River) and Donelson (on the Cumberland River).

Grant Begins Western Campaign

Grant had a sizable force consisting of three infantry divisions, led by John A. McClernand, Charles F. Smith and Lew Wallace. There were also two regiments of cavalry and eight batteries of artillery. Grant also had Captain Andrew Foote’s squadron of seven gunboats. (troop numbers are from the excellent military history of the USA Civil War, The Longest Night by David J. Eicher)

The force, although reasonable, was not huge, so Grant had to make a decision to attack or wait for the initiative to be sent to him from his superiors. However, the western theatre (generally in Kentucky and south of the Ohio River and west of the Appalachian Mountains, but also in Kansas and Missouri) was split into three commands. Those commands were frozen by indecision on how to attack the south, so Grant might have waited forever to get his chance to attack. The known forces were unclear to both sides, as proven by the still debatable troop numbers present at Fort Donelson to weeks later. Grant chose the warrior’s path of seizing the initiative whilst others debated strategy. He proposed to his Commander, General Henry Halleck, that he proceed to take Fort Henry and open up Tennessee via the Tennessee River. The rest as they say is history. Grant’s star was on the rise.

Grant Begins Western Campaign Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

Leaving Cairo, Illinois, cross the Ohio River near its confluence with the Mississippi River on U.S. Highway 51 towards Paducah, Kentucky. Take US-62 out of Paducah and US-68 down to KenLake State Resort Park on the Cumberland River (now Kentucky Lake) pretty much following the path that Grant followed to get to the Fort Henry area. Continue on KY-SR-94 down to Paris Landing State Park in Tennessee and then into the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. In the southwest corner of LBL, near the Piney Bay Campground, you can find the remains of Fort Henry. A map of the ride is here.

Battle of Hatcher’s Run 5 February 1865

On 5 February 1865, the Union Army moved on the Confederate line at Petersburg. After 3 days of vicious fighting, no one had won, but the Union had succeeded in stretching the already overstretched Rebel line. The battle has been called the Battle of Hatcher’s Run / Dabney’s Mill / Armstrong’s Mill / Rowanty Creek / Vaughan Road / Boydton Plank Road. Each name had a significance in the battle, but the battle is generally referred to as the battle of Hatcher’s Run.

The Siege of Richmond

By early February 1865, General Grant had besieged Petersburg for 8 months. Further south, Sherman had completed his march to the sea and was now heading north. Schofield was moving inland from Fort Fisher. Lee knew that Grant would not wait for a full encirclement. Grant wanted to prove he could take Lee without help. The actions from 5-7 February 1865 were the opening moves to make Lee’s hold on Petersburg unsustainable.

The Battle of Hatcher’s Run

Grant was trying to cut what he thought was Lee’s primary supply route into Petersburg. To this end, Grant sent General David Gregg’s cavalry division to conduct the operation on Boydton Plank Road to Burgess Mill, near where it crossed the Hatcher’s Run (creek). In support, he sent two divisions each of General G.K. Warren’s V Corps and General A.A. Humphreys’ II Corps. Warren set up a blocking position for Gregg on the Confederate side of Hatcher’s Run and Humphreys protected Warren’s flank.

As the action commenced on a cold morning, Gregg seized little in the way of supplies on the Boydton Plank Road. Lee was not using it heavily for supplies, partly because he suspected such an attack and partly because little supply was reaching his bedraggled troops anyway. Warren and Humphreys dug in for protection from long range artillery. Late in the day, the General John Gordon’s Rebels tried an attack on Humphreys, but it didn’t amount to much and was thrown back. Overnight, the Yankees re-enforced with two divisions from Meade.

On 6 February, Warren probed forward, but was hit hard by Gordon and pulled back sloppily until reaching the line with Humphreys. In the 6th’s fierce fighting, Gordon lost one of the Rebel’s best division commanders, General John Pegram, to a shot through the chest. The 7th brought entrenchment and stalemate.

In the end, the Yankees had to settle for extending their line to the Vaughan Road crossing of Hatcher’s Run. The Union took heavy losses, but made Lee extend his line and killed one of the south’s best leaders in Pegram. This was bad for Lee, but the worst was to come.

Battle of Hatcher’s Run Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

Check out the Petersburg battlefield tour.

If you want a longer ride, try VA-SR-10 and 31 from Petersburg to Williamsburg. You can stop off at the first English settlement in America at Jamestown Island.

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